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Department of Politics and International Studies (POLIS)



Christian Sorace is a Lecturer of Global China at the University of Cambridge. From 2017 to late 2022, he was an Assistant Professor at Colorado College. His work explores political concepts and practices in China and Mongolia, spanning the study of ideology, discourse, urban planning, air pollution, and aesthetics. He is also interested in the histories and legacies of communism in Asia.

His first book Shaken Authority: China’s Communist Party and the 2008 Sichuan Earthquake (Cornell University Press, 2017) examines how the Chinese Communist Party’s legitimation strategies hinge on its conceptualisation and shaping of ideology, language, and aesthetics. The book also shows how the Communist Party’s visions for the future, and models of political economic development, became templates for post-earthquake reconstruction, including the transfer of resources from the coastal region, urbanisation of peasantry, and construction of ecological civilisation.

He approaches the Chinese Communist Party, and what goes on at its margins, as sites for the generation of political concepts and practices, which merit examination on their own terms. To this end, he has organised and participated in several collaborative, transnational projects, including co-editing the volumes Afterlives of Chinese Communism: Political Concepts from Mao to Xi (ANU Press and Verso Books, 2019) and Proletarian China: A Century of Chinese Labour (Verso Books, 2022), as well as the special issue Political Enchantments: Aesthetic Practices and the Chinese State, published by Critical Inquiry in the Spring of 2020. He also serves on the editorial board of the Made in China Journal.

In 2022, he was a Fulbright Fellow and Visiting Scholar at the National University of Mongolia, where he conducted research on how urban crises, such as ger district redevelopment and chronic air pollution in Mongolia’s capital city of Ulaanbaatar, contribute to a pervasively felt deficit of democracy. Although details are always particular to their locality, and require ethnographic attention, they cannot be thought apart from the ongoing global crisis of political forms and futures, in which they are embedded. 


Key publications: 



Proletarian China: A Century of Chinese Labour [co-editor with Ivan Franceschini]. Verso 


Afterlives of Chinese Communism: Political Concepts from Mao to Xi [co-editor with Ivan Franceschini and Nicholas Loubere]. Verso/ANU Press


Shaken Authority: China’s Communist Party and the 2008 Sichuan Earthquake. Cornell University Press


Selected Articles


“The Communist Party’s Nervous System: Affective Governance from Mao to Xi,” The China Quarterly


“Ideological Conversion: Mongolia’s Transition from Socialism to Post-Socialism,” positions: asia critique


“Metrics of Exceptionality, Simulated Intimacy,” Critical Inquiry


“In the Name of the Working Class: Narratives of Labour Activism in Contemporary China” [with Ivan Franceschini], Pacific Affairs

Winner of the Holland Prize for Best Research Article Published in Pacific Affairs in 2019


“Extracting Affect: Televised Cadre Confessions in China,” Public Culture                                   


“China’s Phantom Urbanization and the Pathology of Ghost Cities” [with William Hurst], Journal of Contemporary Asia   


“Ai Weiwei: China’s Last Communist,” Critical Inquiry


“China’s Vision for Developing Sichuan’s Post-Earthquake

Countryside: Turning Unruly Peasants into Grateful Urban Citizens,”

The China Quarterly  


Selected Book Chapters


“Making Something Out of Nothing,“ in North Korea Seen and Unseen, eds. Lisa Min, Hoon Song, and John Lie, University of California Press


“The Short-Lived Eternity of Friendship: Chinese Workers in Socialist Mongolia (1955-1964),” [with Ruiyi Zhu] in Proletarian China: A Century of Chinese Labour, eds. Ivan Franceschini and Christian Sorace, Verso Books 


For a fuller list of current publications, please see Dr Sorace's CV

Assistant Professor of the Politics of China
University Teaching Officer
Fellow and Director of Studies, Corpus Christi College

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